Landscape design Getting professional help

If you’re looking for a landscape design that’s perfect for your property, a pro can make a huge difference. The reason: professional designers spend every working day solving problems most of us only face once or twice a lifetime.

landscape design

See in advance what your yard will look like

No wonder they have better design ideas than we do.

If you go with a landscape designer, you will spend money up front to get a plan done, but if the designer is good, you’ll get it right the first time – which will save you money in the end.

What kind of landscaping help do you need?

You can hire people to do jobs that take more muscle or design skill than you have. Of course, you do easier jobs such as planting shrubs and perennials yourself.

For example, a landscape designer can plan out the “bones” of the garden – hardscape aspects, such as where beds and structures should go and how to best arrange your outdoor space.

landscape design

A design helps you budget for your project

Landscape contractors can do heavier jobs such as bed preparation and planting large-sized trees.

In my experience, some designers and most landscape contractors aren’t that knowledgeable about flower gardens, so you might need to look a little harder for a garden designer who designs perennial gardens.

But you can also experiment with flower gardening on your own after a designer has helped with critical choices such as the layout of the planting beds, the most important trees and shrubs and other garden structures like patios and paths.

How much does it cost?

It’s difficult to generalize about fees, as they vary quite a bit, depending on where you live, the experience and training of the person you hire – whether it’s a garden designer or landscape architect – and the scope of your project.

A full landscape design (drawings showing landscape features and planting plan) can range from a couple of hundred dollars to over $1,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the design and the overall budget of the project.

Landscape designs for free? Too good to be true?

Be careful when garden centers or contractors offer “free” design services. They may be more interested in selling their plant inventory than creating a design that meets your needs.

The people hired to do these designs are generally not as experienced as someone who has invested time and training to become a professional landscape designer. Nothing is really free: design costs are built into the mark-up on plants and materials.

You did formal, I said casual

Good communication is easier said than done. If you talk to a landscape designer about a French-style garden, she might come up with a plan that’s as formal as Versailles, which won’t gibe if your vision is all Monet-style water lilies, tumbling lavender and colorful perennials.

Be as clear as you can about what you want – a good reason to have pictures on hand. Garden magazines are full of inspiring ideas. Be upfront too about how much you have to spend. Professional landscaping usually costs a little more than you think it will.

Finding a good contractor

Anybody with a shovel, a mower and a pickup truck can call him or herself a landscaper. To find expert experienced contractors, knock on doors of landscapes you have admired, or contact professional landscape association in your region.

Ask to see a portfolio and references, credentials, guarantees on workmanship and proof of insurance.

What’s your budget and time frame?

Let’s face it: most of us never have enough money for everything we’d like to do in the garden (or anywhere else for that matter). You can save money by doing some or all of the work yourself.

Begin with an overall landscape design plan, and then install various components over time. If you go this route, break jobs down into manageable steps, and be realistic about what’s possible in a season.

If you’re hiring a landscape contractor, ask about the feasibility of phasing in the landscape work over a couple of seasons. You could install the fence this year, a patio the next and an arbor or water feature the third season.

Having a professional design prepared in advance is helpful for a step-by-step process because you want all the elements to look good together when the job is done.

Think ahead, way ahead

Every spring, landscape madness grips everyone at the same time. Spring fever means that landscape designers and contractors are run off their feet.

If you want your work done early in the season, contact landscape pros the previous fall or in early winter – they’ll love you for it – and you’ll have their full attention.

Fall too can be a good time to have a landscape project done. It’s still warm enough for construction and planting in many parts of the country. If you’re lucky enough to live where winters are warm, landscape projects can be spread over more months of the year, but even so, spring is still a busy time.

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